Arnold Palmer Invitational begins on Thursday


Frank Shala

Arnold Palmer will welcome world #1 ranked Rory McIlroy to his tournament for the first time.

Headlined by the number one player in the world Rory McIlroy, golf’s elite take the course at Bay Hill this week for the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Four of the top five and 15 of the top 30 in the Official World Golf Rankings will look to dethrone last years champion Matt Every.

“I’m so pleased to have Rory here and the field we’ve got,” said tournament host Arnold Palmer. “That is an accomplishment in itself and I think that we will continue to improve the field and improve the interest in this tournament. That’s what I’m after.”

All five of the top five were scheduled to be in the field before Bubba Watson withdrew from the field Wednesday after the death of a childhood friend.

Followed by McIlroy in the rankings are Bubba Watson (2), Henrik Stenson (3), Adam Scott (4) and Jason Day (5). Thirty-two of the top 50 players in the current FedExCup standings, including the last three champions (Billy Horschel, Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker) are also in the tournament.

This will be the first start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (API) for McIlroy. He missed the cut at The Honda Classic in February and finished in a tie for ninth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship two weeks ago in his only two starts on TOUR this season.

“Obviously delighted to be here,” said McIlroy. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Orlando resident Henrik Stenson will be making his seventh API start. He has two top 10s, both in his last two starts.

Last year, Adam Scott was looking for a wire-to-wire finish before a final round 76 allowed Every to take the title. Scott has two top 10s in seven career starts. Jason Day will be playing in his fifth API, but has yet to finish better than 25th.

There have been no repeat winners on the PGA Tour in 2015, with nobody managing to win twice in the entire 2014-15 season, which began in early October. That is a span of 17 events, including the opposite field event played in Puerto Rico the same week as the WGC-Cadillac Championship. It is the longest stretch since 1994, when it took 21 tournaments before Nick Price became the first player to win twice.